Miami’s stunning upset win over powerhouse Duke in its own arena had led many to believe that this year’s team was no pushover. And to reinforce this idea, the Canes looked to continue their resurgent win streak with a statement victory over their bitter rivals in Florida State.
Unfortunately for the Canes, they fell short to FSU on a last-second foul call that ultimately cost them both the road game and a nine-game win streak. The loss extended Miami’s losing streak to eight against a continually strong FSU basketball program, in an arena that Miami has struggled in for several years.
However, Miami (14-4 , 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) looks to put this loss past them and get even with its rivals this Saturday, as the Canes aim to adjust their game, and outlast their rivals at home in Coral Gables.
After Miami and FSU’s latest meeting on Jan. 11, regarding the matchup, head coach Jim Larrañaga said, “I thought Florida State did a tremendous job defensively. I thought our guys played very well, and it came down to the last possession.”
The Canes are now more eager than ever for a statement rivalry win, coming off a 28-point rout of the North Carolina Tar Heels on Tuesday, in which Miami dealt the blue-blood basketball program its worst conference loss in 10 years.
The main highlight of Miami’s meteoric rise to the top of the ACC has been fueled by none other than the prolific guard trio of Kameron McGusty, Isaiah Wong and Charlie Moore. McGusty and Wong currently lead the team in scoring this season with 18.1 and 16.4 points per game, respectively.
In addition, Moore has been a serious player of interest lately, leading the Miami backcourt group in 3-point percentage (40%) and the entire team in both steals (two per game) and assists (3.9 per game). Moore has also been on a strong scoring streak for Miami, having averaged 17.6 points per game in his last five games.
Needless to say, the sixth-year senior has made quick work of his responsibilities as a starting player and a leader for the team. Larrañaga has high praise for Moore, who transferred to Miami this year from DePaul.
“He’s been for us what Chris Paul was for Wake Forest 20 years ago. He does everything for us. He’s really like Tom Brady, just a great quarterback,” Larrañaga said.
Additionally, Miami’s frontcourt has been indispensable to a strong season so far. Miami’s starting power forward/center Sam Waardenburg has been equally as important for the team’s success. Waardenburg leads Miami’s frontcourt in 3-point percentage (.459) and blocks (1.1 per game) this season. This has most recently culminated in Waardenburg posting a career-high 21 points, shooting 5-of-6 from 3-point range in Miami’s dominant win over UNC on Tuesday.
Regarding Waardenburg’s role for Miami, Wong said that “He’s been one of the main players we need on our team: a stretch five that everybody can rely on … if he has open shots he’s going to hit it at any time, and he’s one of the good players and great pieces we need.”
After the win over UNC, Waardenburg said “The guys are hungry, very hungry for this next one,” in reference to the upcoming FSU matchup.
“We put ourselves in a great position, a great area to win that [previous FSU] game, but coming into this, the guys are very hungry. Obviously, coach is going to give us a great game plan as usual and we’re gonna have to go out there and execute…’hungry’ is the word,” Waardenburg continued.
Considering the radical matchup differences in Miami’s small-ball play versus FSU’s size advantage, this will be no easier of a task than it was in Tallahassee, Florida, even after a resounding defeat of the nation’s then-No. 2 ranked team in Duke.
With such fundamental contrasts between Miami and FSU’s play style, Larrañaga, a former ACC Coach of the Year, will need to adjust.
Being one of the lowest-end rebounding teams in the nation, Miami will have to further rely on its ability to shoot and score from long distance, and outplay FSU’s aggressive defense and size advantages on the glass.
Miami will enter Saturday’s matinee against FSU with a 6-1 record in ACC play. And as its attention now turns towards building a new win streak, Saturday’s matchup will be as important for them as it was nearly a week ago.
Larrañaga and his Hurricanes hope to stay atop the ACC with a win against Florida State. The Canes will get this opportunity as they face off against their longtime rivals on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Watsco Center.